City cracking down on drug, prostitution rings disguised as massage establishments

SAN ANTONIO – The city of San Antonio is looking to crack down on drug and prostitution rings disguised as massage establishments.

The Public Safety Committee approved changes to the city’s Massage Parlor Ordinance, which has been in effect since 1988.

The San Antonio Police Department said in the last two years, complaints have led police to 28 investigations by the vice unit, 19 arrests, 48 citations and the shutdown of two parlors.

The city can file a lawsuit against a business in an effort to close the business once a minimum of six cases related to sex, drugs or violent crimes have occurred on the property.

The proposed changes aim to make it easier for the city to deal with establishments at which there are ongoing problems.  

The following are the proposed changes as cited by the city:

  • Require businesses cited for the following violations within a 12-month period to obtain city permit, for a $75 fee:
  • Charge of any violation of the Penal Code

  • Three or more minimum housing violations

  • Failure to post Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation license for business, owner and/or masseur

  • Increase penalty for operating without a permit from $200 to $500

  • Add criminal violations as basis for revocation

  • Revocation of certificate of occupancy following multiple violations

  • Prohibit businesses from having sleeping quarters and metal doors.

"Businesses cited for violations following issuance of city permit will have permit revoked which will also result in the revocation of the certificate of occupancy for the property. A committee comprised of the Chief of Police, the Development Services Director and a representative from the City Manager’s Office will hear appeals and make a final determination," the city said in an agenda memo.

Raul Flores is an independent business consultant for massage establishments and schools and a licensed massage therapist. He said the majority of businesses are legitimately doing the right thing in compliance with state laws. But there are a few places that the city needs to go after that are ruining the reputation of the practice.

“The term 'parlor' has a negative connotation when linked to the word massage,” he said. “I can tell you no massage therapist ever refers to their business as a massage parlor.”

He urges customers to look for the current license granted by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for both the business and the individual giving the massage.

He said that, since the TDLR started overseeing the operations of massage establishments, there have been more inspections, and he thinks it’s going to help the profession.

The city said there are more than 100 licensed establishments within city limits. Flores said there are about 300 in the San Antonio area, with more than 2,000 statewide.

The city will hear feedback on the proposed changes in the near future before the amendments go before the full City Council for a vote.

In Leon Valley in March, an ordinance change led to the shutdown of three parlors and the detention of 11 Chinese immigrants.

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